Cover image for Skeleton man
Skeleton man
Bruchac, Joseph, 1942-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [2001]

Physical Description:
114 pages ; 20 cm
After her parents disappear and she is turned over to the care of a strange "great-uncle, " Molly must rely on her dreams about an old Mohawk story for her safety and maybe even for her life.
Reading Level:
730 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.8 3.0 52617.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.4 7 Quiz: 26339 Guided reading level: U.


Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Paperback
Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Paperback

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Trust your dreams. Both my parents said that. That's our old way, our Mohawk way. The way of our ancestors. Trust the little voice that speaks to you. That is your speaking. But when those feelings, those dreams, those voices are so confusing, what do you do then?
"Help," I whisper. "Help."
I'm not sure who I'm talking to when I
say that, but I hope they're listening.

Ever since Molly woke up one morning and discovered that her parents vanished, she has had to depend on herself to survive
-- and find the reason for their disappearance.

Social Services has turned her over to the care of a great-uncle, a mysterious man Molly has never met before. Then Molly starts having dreams about the Skeleton Man from a spooky old Mohawk tale her father used to tell her...dreams that are trying to tell her something...dreams that might save her, if only she can understand them.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-9. What will Molly do now that her parents have vanished? The answer may rest with the elderly stranger who claims to be her great-uncle. Credulous local authorities hope he is, and they're glad to send the sixth-grader to live with him. But is he who he claims to be? And why does he appear in Molly's increasingly vivid dreams as the skeleton monster she heard about in her Mohawk father's stories? Will Molly ever see her parents again? Will her dreams and reality merge with disastrous results? Although it's steeped in Mohawk lore and tradition, Bruchac's story is contemporary both in its setting and its celebration of the enduring strength and courage of Native American women. The plot occasionally seems as skeletal as the monster that stalks the pages, but Molly's plight will still engage readers' sympathy as she struggles to prove herself worthy of her namesake, Molly Brant, a dauntless eighteenth-century Mohawk warrior. --Michael Cart

Publisher's Weekly Review

According to the gutsy sixth grade narrator of Bruchac's (Heart of a Chief; Sacagawea) latest novel, the book draws from the traditions of Native American stories, especially one about a "skeleton man," for its spine-tingling effects. Not long after Molly's parents mysteriously disappear one night, her "great-uncle" shows up to claim her, with photographs of her family that convince the adults around her (but not Molly) that he is a relative. In fact, the photos look suspiciously like those that belonged to her father, who grew up on a Mohawk reservation. Each night, the bony guardian locks her into her room, allowing her to attend school during the day. Molly relies on the deciphering of her dreams, her "warrior-girl" courage and the support of her quirky but compassionate teacher to solve the mystery and rescue her parents. The eerie figure of the semi-human creature pretending to be Molly's uncle is particularly well drawn: "His fingers spread out so wide that they look like the talons of a giant bird.... His eyes are twin blue flames burning from within his skull." The mix of traditional and contemporary cultural references adds to the story's haunting appeal, and the quick pace and suspense, particularly in the last few chapters, will likely hold the interest of young readers. Ages 10-14. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-Mohawk teenager Molly discovers that her parents have gone missing in this novel by Joseph Bruchac (HarperCollins, 2001). While she is able to hide this fact for a while, Social Services soon become involved. They locate a man who says he is her great uncle and has photos of her parents in his wallet. Molly realizes they are the same photos that her father carried in his wallet. After being drugged by the first food that Uncle gives her, Molly is smart enough not to eat anything else that he prepares. The menacing man frightens Molly, always exhorting her to eat and get fat, locking her in her room at night, and never allowing her to see his face. A sympathetic teacher tries to help, but ultimately it is Molly's dreams and the Abenaki stories her father told her that save both Molly and her parents. Molly is an inherently sympathetic character, but for the first half of the narration Carine Montbertrand makes her sound unsympathetic and unpleasant. Those who read the book will find it a very scary story, but this narrated version doesn't give listeners the same frightening feeling. As the plot gets more intense, Montbertrand's pace fails to increase to reflect the tension. On the whole, the narration doesn't do justice to this genuinely scary story.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Skeleton Man Chapter One Footsteps on the Stair I'm not sure how to begin this story. For one thing, it's still going on. For another, you should never tell a story unless you're sure how it's going to end. At least that's what my sixth-grade teacher, Ms. Shabbas, says. And I'm not sure at all. I'm not sure that I even know the beginning. I'm not sure if I'm a minor character or the heroine. Heck, I'm not even sure I'll be around to tell the end of it. But I don't think anyone else is going to tell this story. Wait! What was that noise? I listen for the footsteps on the stairs, footsteps much heavier than those an elderly man should make. But it's quiet, just the usual spooky nighttime creaking of this old house. I don't hear anyone coming now. If I don't survive, maybe they'll all realize I should have been taken seriously and then warn the world! Warn the world. That's pretty melodramatic, isn't it? But that is one of the things I do well, melodrama. At least that is what Ms. Shabbas says. Her name is Maureen Shabbas. But Ms. Showbiz is what we all call her, because her main motive for living seems to be torturing our class with old Broadway show tunes. She starts every day by singing a few bars of one and then making it the theme for the day. It is so disgustingly awful that we all sort of like it. Imagine someone who loves to imitate Yul Brynner in The King and I, a woman with an Afro, no less, getting up and singing "Shall We Dance?" in front of a classroom of appalled adolescents. Ms. Showbiz. And she has the nerve to call me melodramatic! But I guess I am. Maybe this whole thing is a product of my overactive imagination. If that turns out to be so, all I can say is who wouldn't have an overactive imagination if they'd heard the kind of stories I used to hear from Mom and Dad? Dad had the best stories. They were ones his aunties told him when he was growing up on the Mohawk Reserve of Akwesasne on the Canadian side. One of my favorites was the one about the skeleton monster. He was just a human being at first, a lazy, greedy uncle who hung around the longhouse and let everyone else hunt for him. One day, alone in the lodge, waiting for the others to come home with food, Lazy Uncle burned his finger really badly in the fire and stuck it into his mouth to cool it. "Oooh," he said as he sucked the cooked flesh, "this tastes good!" (Isn't that gross? I love it. At least, I used to love it.)It tasted so good, in fact, that he ate all the flesh off his finger. "Ah," he said, "this is an easy way to get food, but I am still hungry." So he cooked another finger, and another, until he had eaten all his fingers. "Oooh," he said, "that was good, but I am still hungry." So he cooked his toes and ate them. He cooked his feet and ate them. He cooked his legs and ate them. He cooked his right arm and then his left. He kept on until he had cooked his whole body and eaten it, and all that was left was a skeleton. When he moved, his bones rubbed together: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. "Ah," he said in a voice that was now just a dry whisper. "That was good, but I am still hungry. I hope that my relatives come home soon." And when his relatives came home, one by one, they found that the lodge was dark except for the glow of the cooking fire. They could see a shadowy shape beckoning to them from the other side of the fire. They could hear a sound like this: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. "Come in, my relatives," Skeleton Man whispered. "I have been waiting for you."One by one all of his relatives came into the lodge. Skeleton Man caught them and ate them, all but one. She was his niece, and she had been playing in her favorite spot down by the river that flowed through the gorge. She was late coming home because she had seen a rabbit that had fallen into the river. She had rescued it from drowning and warmed it in her arms until it was able to run away. When the little girl came to the lodge, she was surprised at how quiet it was. She should have heard people talking and laughing, but she didn't hear anything. Something was wrong. Slowly, carefully, she approached the door of the lodge. A strange sound came from the shadows within: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. Then a dry voice called out to her. "My niece," Skeleton Man whispered. "Come into the lodge. I have been waiting for you." That voice made her skin crawl. "Where are my parents?" she asked."They are here. They are here inside," Skeleton Man whispered. "Come in and be with them." "No," the girl said, "I will not come inside." "Ah," Skeleton Man replied in his dry, thin voice, "that is all right. I will come out for you." Then Lazy Uncle, the Skeleton Man, walked out of the lodge. His dry bones rubbed together as he walked toward the little girl: tschick-a-tschick-tschick-a-tschick. The girl began to run, not sure where to go. Skeleton Man would have caught her and eaten her if it hadn't been for that rabbit she'd rescued from the river. It appeared on the path before her. "I will help you because you saved me," said the rabbit. "Follow me." Then the rabbit helped the little girl outwit Skeleton Man. It even showed her how to bring everyone Skeleton Man had eaten back to life. My mom and dad told me stories like that all the time. Before they vanished. Disappeared. Gone, just like that. I was on TV when they disappeared. You probably saw me on Unsolved Mysteries. The news reporter said into her microphone, "Child left alone in house for over three days, terrified, existing on cornflakes and canned food." Actually I went to school on Tuesday and called out for pizza once. Mom had left money on her dresser when they went out that Saturday evening and never returned. Skeleton Man . Copyright © by Joseph Bruchac . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac, Bruchac All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Footsteps on the Stairp. 1
Chapter 2 The Knock on the Doorp. 18
Chapter 3 The Dreamp. 24
Chapter 4 Dark Cedarsp. 29
Chapter 5 Eat and Grow Fatp. 39
Chapter 6 No Picturesp. 44
Chapter 7 The Counselorp. 49
Chapter 8 The Girl in the Storyp. 57